Rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell made himself a fan favorite in the preseason with a couple of strong performances, but little did anyone know that he would get a chance to start for the Las Vegas Raiders during the 2023 NFL season.
After Mark Davis parted ways with former head coach Josh McDaniels, O’Connell got the nod to start the rest of the way, and he delivered with a few quality wins. In the regular season finale against the Denver Broncos, O’Connell led the Raiders to victory with a solid 244-yard, two-touchdown performance.
Although Las Vegas missed the postseason again, there was some real progress made on both sides of the field, and O’Connell definitely made a case for himself to stick on the roster. Interim head coach Antonio Pierce wasted no time allowing O’Connell to prove himself and the former fourth-round pick repaid his trust.
However, O’Connell had to address his future with the team, given that it’s no sure thing that Pierce would keep the head coaching job.
“Obviously, it’s been a whirlwind the last few weeks,” O’Connell said. “Rookie season is hard, it’s long. And obviously with everything that happened, it was a little crazy. But like I said, just super appreciative of the opportunity to play. It’s not an opportunity a lot of guys get and so I tried to make the most of it. But felt the support from AP and the rest of my teammates. We’ll see what happens in the future, it’s outside of my control. But again, just more so reflecting on the season, just proud of our guys.”
Pierce made an excellent case to be Las Vegas’ head coach, but Davis reportedly has his sights set on some big name head coaching free agents. If Pierce doesn’t get the job, it could mean bad news for O’Connell given that he wasn’t drafted by the incoming regime.
For now, fans will have to wait and see what direction the silver and black go in the offseason.
Kelechi Osemele believes Raiders should target Michael Penix Jr. in 2024 NFL Draft
O’Connell proved to be a capable backup to Jimmy Garoppolo, but the Raiders will surely be looking at the quarterback prospects in the highly-touted 2024 NFL Draft class. Las Vegas will miss out on the likes of USC’s Caleb Williams and UNC’s Drake Maye if they stay put at No. 13, but people like Kelechi Osemele believe the team should go after Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.